The Caisse de dépôt says it generated a 9.6 per cent return on its investments in 2012, largely thanks to its corporate investments.

Rona, Laurentian Bank, CAE, Gildan and Canadian National were among the Caisse’s most lucrative investments, helping Quebec’s largest pension fund manager increase its assets to $176.2 billion from $159 billion in 2011.

Though the Caisse let go of about $1 billion worth of Québecor shares in order to diversify its investments, its assets in Quebec companies rose by $5.9 billion in 2012, to $47.1 billion.

Some of those investments are in controversial engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

"It’s true SNC-Lavalin is going through an extremely difficult period," Caisse CEO Michael Sabia, who took over in March of 2009, said Wednesday.

Former SNC-Lavalin CEO Pierre Duhaime is expected in court tomorrow to face new charges, including fraud.

Still, Sabia said the Caisse has confidence in the engineering firm’s new administration, adding that he thought it had a lot of global potential.

Restructured portfolios yield good results

"Our 2012 results contribute to the work we have done since we restructured our portfolios in the summer of 2009 to generate solid long-term results," said Sabia.

Since 2009, the Caisse has generated a 10.7 per cent annualized return despite economic volatility.

"These results reflect the efforts we've made in recent years, but one thing is certain: we still have more work to do," he said.

"In a changing world economy that has begun to gradually recover, we will continue to pursue our new strategic plans, which aim for even greater long-term stability."

Sabia said part of the Caisse’s strategy in reducing risks is to wait for the best time to sell its shares rather than liquidate them to limit losses.

The Caisse is expecting a more robust global economy this year, particularly if concrete reforms in the Euro zone are put in place.

With files from The Canadian Press